Effect of antigenic exposure on airway smooth muscle remodeling in an equine model of chronic asthma

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Jul;45(1):181-7. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2010-0300OC. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


Recent studies suggest that airway smooth muscle remodeling is an early event in asthma, but whether it remains a dynamic process late in the course of the disease is unknown. Moreover, little is known about the effects of an antigenic exposure on chronically established smooth muscle remodeling. We measured the effects of antigenic exposure on airway smooth muscle in the central and peripheral airways of horses with heaves, a naturally occurring airway disease that shares similarities with chronic asthma. Heaves-affected horses (n = 6) and age-matched control horses (n = 5) were kept on pasture before being exposed to indoor antigens for 30 days to induce airway inflammation and bronchoconstriction. Peripheral lung and endobronchial biopsies were collected before and after antigenic exposure by thoracoscopy and bronchoscopy, respectively. Immunohistochemistry and enzymatic labeling were used for morphometric analyses of airway smooth muscle mass and proliferative and apoptotic myocytes. In the peripheral airways, heaves-affected horses had twice as much smooth muscle as control horses. Remodeling was associated with smooth muscle hyperplasia and in situ proliferation, without reduced apoptosis. Further antigenic exposure had no effect on the morphometric data. In central airways, proliferating myocytes were increased compared with control horses only after antigenic exposure. Peripheral airway smooth muscle mass is stable in chronically affected animals subjected to antigenic exposure. This increased mass is maintained in a dynamic equilibrium by an elevated cellular turnover, suggesting that targeting smooth muscle proliferation could be effective at decreasing chronic remodeling.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • Antigens / pharmacology
  • Asthma* / immunology
  • Asthma* / metabolism
  • Asthma* / pathology
  • Asthma* / veterinary
  • Bronchi* / immunology
  • Bronchi* / metabolism
  • Bronchi* / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Horse Diseases* / immunology
  • Horse Diseases* / metabolism
  • Horse Diseases* / pathology
  • Horses
  • Hyperplasia
  • Muscle, Smooth* / immunology
  • Muscle, Smooth* / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth* / pathology


  • Antigens